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General Paper Essay Outline on Scientific Research with many requirements

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(Q) ‘Nobody seems to know, or even care about, where to draw the line.’ Is this a fair assessment of scientific research? (HCI 2013)

Preparatory Interpretations :
What does it mean by ‘drawing the line’ ?
 Setting guidelines or a code of conduct with regards to the kinds of research and methodologies that are acceptable as well as the applications of the findings or the products of the research.
Who is ‘nobody’ ?
 The public ? The governments or world bodies ? Scientists ? Corporations ?
• Modern scientific research has engendered unprecedented possibilities for mankind.
• It comes as no surprise that the interest in pushing the limits of scientific research grows with every new development.
• One question that arises is this : Where do we draw the line ?
• Some may say that we are clueless as to how limits should be set, especially when the discovery is new.
• As an extension to this, some might even suppose that no one actually cares about these limits if the research could yield benefits for various interested parties.
• This essay, however, seeks to argue that the claim that nobody knows or even cares where to draw the line in scientific research is unfair.
• This is because it is both possible and worthwhile for guidelines to be formulated for an even greater good, although the temptation of throwing all caution to the wind is ever-present.

Pt 1 : When the development is too new, it could be true to suggest that no one actually knows what the boundaries are. However, it is not fair to say that no one cares.
The reason why it is unfair to say that nobody cares about boundaries is because any research does not emerge in a vacuum. It emerges in the context of a society that already has established values and practices. So there will definitely be a segment of the population who show concern about how anything new (like discoveries and inventions) could affect the status quo and stability of the country.
Case : Organ transplantation
The first successful cornea transplant was performed in 1905 while the first successful kidney transplant was carried out in 1950. As with any effective procedure, the research behind it took years. Scientists remained steadfast in experimenting because they were driven by the mission to save lives and cure illnesses. There was then little consideration about the repercussions of a widely successful procedure. No one seemed to know any better about what was to come. Today, the lack of regulation in the field has created a black market for kidneys and corneas from the developing world to affluent patients from richer nations – one that is fraught with abuse since the sellers are desperate enough to subject themselves to sub-standard treatment. That said, despite the lack of foresight, there is a realisation that such unethical outcomes of research have to be curbed. This realisation stems from society’s own understanding that it is wrong to exploit the needy by forcing them to commodify themselves, including their organs. Different countries have implemented different measures. In Singapore’s first such case, the beneficiary was jailed and fined for making false declarations in order to procure a kidney. Human Rights Watch has also reported China’s use of organs of executed inmates to highlight that the absence of consent is against universal standards. When action is taken to prevent research from being misused, it shows that they care that boundaries are drawn even though they may not have known this any earlier.
Other possible cases : xenotransplantation, genetic modification

Pt 2 : There is awareness but nobody cares because they are interested in the results of unrestrained research.
Governments could be aware how to regulate the development of weapons technology but they have vested interest in strengthening their defence capabilities at any cost, and so they care little for regulation.
Case : Weapons development
A line could be drawn as to what kinds of technologies would be more acceptable. On the surface, developing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones that shoot with accuracy and limit damage sound more humane than doing research on indiscriminate biological weapons like anthrax and botulism or chemical weapons like sarin gas or mustard gas. But in reality, governments have no incentive to apply such priorities because they know their enemies probably do not either. In the arms race, science and technology provides an undeniable edge. So governments make investments in all areas.

In the same vein, there could be guidance on how to draw the line in product development, but corporations or business-minded practitioners might choose to ignore it if it affects their bottomline.
Case : The commercialisation of alternative treatments
Certain kinds of treatments may not get the endorsement of the medical authorities that set the guidelines because the safety and efficacy of these treatments are not yet fully confirmed. Yet, businesses still roll these treatments out to make money from consumers who are eager for quick, painless procedures.
In S’pore in 2010, a doctor was fined for using a bioresonance machine that uses electromagnetic waves to treat patients with behavioural issues, but he did so without first ensuring that clinical trials were conducted according to the Singapore Medical Council’s guidelines.
(Or another e.g.  In New Zealand in 2013, a doctor was fined $8000 for using an unapproved drug in a cheek lift procedure that was so botched up, the patient was left with large growths on her face)

Pt 3 : Yes, there are those who know how to draw the line and care, especially when the research has already become more established and scientists are aware of the problems that require regulation.
Case : Nuclear technology
(a) The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) works for the safe, secure and peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology. Its key roles contribute to international peace and security, and to the world’s Millennium Goals for social, economic and environmental development.
Areas of use : agriculture, water resources, human health, the environment
(b) Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons – most countries commit to not-producing such weapons, or disarming themselves, or applying only for peaceful uses.

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General Paper Essay Outline : The pros and cons of tourism

Disclaimer : This compilation of points is not exhaustive and is not meant to be taken as the best answer to the question.

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1) Its for the economy !
– jobs
– investment
– development of infrastructure that both locals and tourists can enjoy
– tourism revenue can be used for other things

2) However, there is a  problem with citing spillover benefits for the locals. The locals may not necessarily enjoy the same positive outcomes if tourism is being focussed on at the expense of the locals

- displacing people for the sake of tourist spots
– widening the rich-poor divide (rich tourists vs poor locals)
– keeping people in low end jobs or just seasonal work within the tourist industry
– creation of jobs  that harm society namely prostitution

3) For the individual, tourism is  way of fulfilling a person’s wanderlust

- to learn about the world in a way that simply reading about or watching cannot achieve
– to be rejuvenated by fresh sights and experiences

4) Unfortunately, the wrong values are encouraged by tourism.

- the financial ability to visit other places is now often used as a status symbol by some people.
– the idea that another person’s country is for the perusal and enjoyment of tourists, and that tourists are meant to be served

5) In addition, tourism has become such a thriving commercial sector that many of these experiences are no longer authentic

- services catered to the tourist e.g. shopping
– tourist only get a superficial feel of local cultures because tourist activities are not immersive enough
– so, the intention of learning is not well fulfilled

6) The value of local cultures are diminished, not preserved.

- local cultures become exhibits for tourists to enjoy, rather than becoming something genuinely cherished and practised with the true belief in the significance of those cultural practices
– culture is preserved for the sake of its economic worth within the tourism industry
– if cultural products are mass produced, then artistry is lost

7) On top of that tourism increases harm to the environment in several ways

- more wastage because tourist traffic means more is spent on food or products that are beyond the needs of an average person —> the problem of consumerism is magnified
– greater footfall on natural sites puts a strain on the fragile natural environment — more trash in the area too
– This challenges the argument that ecotourism is actually beneficial because more effort will be put in to preserve the natural areas that are slated to be tourist site

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General Paper Essay Outline : Social media gives rise to conflict. Do you agree ?

Disclaimer : This response is not meant to be treated as the only, or best, answer to the question.


Introduction :

(1) Unlike many young people today, their parents, teachers and most adults they know grew up in the time before the internet and before the era of social media. (2) Those among them who are suspicious of social media point out how this technology seems to be some kind of Pandora’s Box that gives rise to the panoply of conflicts spilling out from the virtual world into real life. (3) They have good reason for this because the nature of social media lends itself to engendering and perpetuating discord or dissent. (4) This is not to say that the opposite – that social media promotes togetherness or harmony – does not happen. (5) However, the existence of such positive outcomes are insufficient to invalidate the assertion that social media triggers conflict.


BP 1 :

(1) Social media rallies the like-minded, for better or for worse. (2) It is without a doubt that so many positive missions have been promoted via social media. (3) These causes call for people to set aside their differences and work towards a good goal. (4) However, conflict becomes inevitable when the cause challenges any status quo, and it is social media that has facilitated this.
———- add examples here (environmentalism, human rights etc.) ———-
(5) It is also possible for the cause itself to also be genuinely malicious. (6) Then, social media could be misused to instigate and spread conflict.
———- add examples here (terrorism, racism etc.) ———-


BP 2 :

(1) Social media also gives rise to conflict because it is seen as the alternative to mainstream media and a viable outlet for political dissidence that would otherwise be suppressed. (2) Mainstream media is often known to be controlled either by the government or large media corporations. (3) On the other hand, social media is synonymous with freedom of expression which is buttressed, to some extent, by the twin pillars of the internet : anonymity and impunity. (4) Views that are anti-establishment find release in cyberspace because censorship, editing and filtering are far less rigorous than on mainstream outlets. (5) These ideas often start as seemingly innocuous, casual, personal thoughts, no different from the thinking aloud that other people generally do online. (6) Numerous ‘likes’, ‘favourites’ and ‘shares’ later, the anti-government perspective picks up steam and becomes a potentially formidable force for the State to reckon with.
—- add examples here (Arab Spring, Iranian elections, China, Singapore etc.) —-


BP 3 :

(1) To add fuel to the fire, any attempt at restricting social media also becomes a flashpoint because netizens do not want to lose their new-found liberty.
—— add examples here (CISPA in the US, ‘Free My Internet’ movement in Sg etc.) ——


BP 4 :

(1) Having said the above, the anti-government camp on social media creates constructive conflict and tries to take discourse to another level. (2) This happens when the government is compelled to engage its detractors more directly on social media platforms, or better yet, beat them at their own game. (3) While it does seem like the government is stirring up the hornet’s nest, this is a necessary evil for the government. Jumping on the social media bandwagon helps political leaders draw out the criticisms from the ground that they can address to improve their relationship with the people and the lives of the people they are responsible for, thus averting tensions from escalating in the long run.
———- add examples here (PM Lee’s FB page, Tan Chuan Jin’s live online chat etc.) ———-


BP 5 :

(1) Another problem with social media is this :  there is so much insensitivity that friction becomes the corollary of many online exchanges. (2) Conflict is rife among social media users when they perceive social media as the ideal channel for emotional catharsis. (3) It is not. (4) The erroneous assumption often made is that everyone else is just using this platform to vent their feelings. (4) Thus, many expect others to see that ill-will is not intended and users are capable of understanding another person’s actual message, even though it may be ‘embellished’ with digressions, subjective support, randomness, or the occasional expletive. (5) Put another way, conflict comes about when netizens try to communicate without the benefit of knowing the other person’s background well or appreciating the full context of his views, or having a long enough time to engage him to find a meaningful closure to the online chat. (6) Keyboard warriors write as if they are talking face-to-face with someone they know. (7) But they are not. (8) Often, short exchanges turn into misunderstandings aggravated by unsavoury outbursts, or incidences of trolling, meaning repeated online harassment. (9) Worse still when the acrimony degenerates into a flame war, with personal attacks and counter attacks waiting to reach their tipping point.
———- add examples here ———-


BP 6 :

(1) In addition, the viral nature of social media makes it a hotbed for conflict because it is hard to retract any harmful messaging that has been disseminated. (2) It is easy to distort a message just by changing the words in an attempt to meet a word limit that has been set, or attaching a little comment to a story that is sent out to others.  (4) These could have an impact on how the next set of readers view the stories. (5) Untrue messages, unqualified insinuations about a message or altered versions of the original message could (but does not necessarily) sow the seeds of distrust and unhappiness between different parties.
———- add example here (PSI readings issue etc.) ———-


Conclusion :

(1) In conclusion, social media is not for the faint-hearted. (2) With such a cacophony of viewpoints, conflict is to be expected. (3) How the conflict is played out is dependent on many factors especially the maturity and civility of the users. (4) As such, netiquette is a must when using social media for order to prevail despite conflict. (5) Every society can do more to prepare its members to make the best use of this phenomenal development.

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General Paper Essay Outline : Rapid technological changes have made people never satisfied with their lives.

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Learning Point : Activate tools that help you arrive at deeper ideas

Stand : It is not true that people are never satisfied, but the satisfaction that comes with rapid tech innovations is often short-lived

1) [HUMAN CONDITION – SELF ACTUALISATION] Satisfaction is very much dependent on how critical the innovations are to achieving a person’s goals. The pple working in technology hubs that create these innovations thrive on this creative destruction. This is how their sector grows, their skills are honed and their wealth expands.

2a) With rapid tech devts, we become more efficient, and this presumably frees up more time for leisure which increases our sense of fulfilment and work-life balance.
2b) [PERCEPTION] However, that satisfaction is fleeting because we end up either setting higher expectations for ourselves, or others impose their higher expectations on us.
E.g. Recent past to present : email communications
Now : whatsapp, chat messaging systems à even more instantaneous than email à forced to respond sooner; more interruptions to work à loss of productivity & quality à unhappiness !!!

3) [PERCEPTION] Rapid tech innovations result in us anticipating that something better will come, and makes us find fault with the technologies that we have today, even if there is nothing significantly wrong with them. E.g. connections speeds; 3G vs 4G vs 5G

4) [PERCEPTION] [HUMAN CONDITION][CONTROL] Similarly, rapid tech innovations raise our expectations that tech solutions can (soon) be found to overcome problems. After all, we want to use technology to gain better control of our lives and of our resources. Unfortunately, this also makes us intolerant of imperfections and flaws of ourselves or the things around us.
E.g. the obsession with skinny is fuelled by technologies that promise beauty using increasingly safer, non-invasive methods

5) [MONEY] Rapid tech innovations allow us to get newer technologies at a cheaper price. Affordability makes us more willing to spend instead of being content with what we have.

6) [HUMAN CONDITION] Rapid tech innovations exhilarate us with choices. The excitement, and inherent desire, to exercise choice among the various new technologies eclipses one major option: to just stick with what we have, be happy with it, and not acquire anything new.

7) [HUMAN CONDITION - PSYCHOLOGY] For some, rapid change is disorienting and destabilising. Constant need to adapt = tiring.  These feelings add to our dissatisfaction. In addition, diminishing returns sets in. This means that each new change gives less satisfaction than the previous change. So, when developments are rapid, satisfaction also rapidly slides


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General Paper Essay : Fame is a mixed blessing.

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{INTRO} When Britain lost one of its beloved royals, Princess Diana, in a tragic car accident, it was uncovered that her limousine driver had hit high speed levels in an apparent attempt to flee the single-minded, irrepressible paparazzi. Indeed, on any given day, fame makes manifest both its adoring and vicious sides to celebrities and public figures, albeit in different degrees. There is no doubt that fame is a mixed blessing.

{BP1} On one hand, fame is the key to riches and exclusive opportunities. Fame opens doors to more work. This is the reason why so many people put up material on social networks, blogs or video-sharing sites. Think of top Youtubers with legions following their channels like ‘PewDiePie’, ‘NigaHiga’ or ‘Baba Ali’ who go on to do tours and talks, or gain good advertising income. It is the same reason why tens of thousands audition for reality shows like The Voice, Masterchef or Britain’s Got Talent. Many want their passion or talent to be recognised while those with merely vain ambitions just relish the self-gratification that comes with their time in limelight, no matter how brief.

{BP2} When a person becomes more famous, and more sought after, he or she can also ask for more money for the work that he does. How else can we explain the multi-million dollar contracts that have to be signed for A-list actors such as Leonardo Dicaprio and ‘Iron Man’ Robert Downey Jr to star in a film? Many a sportsman, like top-earning soccer stars David Beckham or Cristiano Ronaldo, now bask in the adulation of their fans because their skills have helped pull them out of their working class backgrounds and thrust them into the big leagues of their game. Celebrities also enjoy the benefits of being product ambassadors to big or luxury brands of anything from appliances to cars and watches, and in Beckham’s case, even Calvin Klein underwear. Famous people get invited to places where the layman is shut out, where they mingle with their own kind, and network, offering each other even more ways to advance their careers. Is there no end to the perks of fame?

{BP3} Yet, despite all the exhilaration of fame, its downsides are disconcerting. Famous people are under pressure to live up to expectations in their competitive fields. As a consequence, some celebrities actually suffer from bouts of depression or low esteem. For instance rapper Eminem has publicly shared the intense self-loathing he experienced when he actually became famous. Another major problem is the higher propensity to fall into bad company because new ‘friends’ offer the newly-famous new experiences namely the destructive hedonistic life of potent alcohol, pretty women and party drugs. Once the partying has ended, their addictions would have ruined them and affected their chances of getting work, which simply perpetuates their low self esteem. Robert Downey Jr, like Eminem and many others, went through this same cycle and hit the doldrums before getting a second chance. Even supposedly wholesome sports personality golfer Tiger Woods destroyed his marriage with his multiple affairs. The grim fact is future stars could fall into the same old traps despite all the precedents set before them.

{BP4} Most famous people seem to tell the same story : Fame happened suddenly, and was hard to handle at the start; then, they have an epiphany of what fame really proffers – influence. They could be the new pied pipers and the people would follow. For example, former United States (US) Vice President Al Gore now pursues his fight against global warming and uses his fame to appeal to corporations and governments; glamorous actress Angelina Jolie championed the rights of children for the United Nations; and Microsoft founder Bill Gates funds an array of initiatives to improve education or combat Aids using his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Even this year, former US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and diva Beyonce have joined hands for Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg’s Ban Bossy campaign to encourage leadership among women.

{BP5} What then is the cost of such fame and its resultant power? Public figures pay with their right to privacy. The media tends to pry into their lives, claiming that it is what the ever-curious public wants to know. But in reality, media companies are the ones trying to hawk minute details as sensational news. This is stifling and causes great stress, especially if the celebrity is not equipped emotionally or professionally to handle the media. From time to time, we read about superstars getting involved in altercations with reporters or cameramen who overstepped their already-arbitrary boundaries. Famous people are simply not allowed to be themselves and be at ease.

{BP6} To make things worse, when famous people get into trouble, it gets magnified especially via social media where even their fans and haters jostle to give their two tweet’s worth of comment. Celebrities become the perfect scapegoat for everything wrong in society from rising divorce rates and teen pregnancies to superficiality and recklessness in general. This only aggravates the trauma for the famous person and makes the process of recovery even harder. So we find Hollywood’s Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears taking years to bounce back after notoriously tripping into one scandal after another.

{BP7} On the other hand, only social media-savvy starlets like Miley Cyrus or Rihanna flip the constant intrusion into their lives upside down. They beat the media at their own game, by being the first to share their private lives with the rest of the world through photo-sharing site, Instagram and micro-blogging site, Twitter. They have won over a greater following of admirers or voyeurs, even though their incessant narcissism invites more brickbats too. This all just proves that fame is indeed a double-edged sword.

{RESOLUTION} In the end, fame can be intoxicating and empowering for some. For others, it is an accident, a happy by-product of their great work. Either way, fame can exact its toll on those who cannot wield it masterfully and let it consume them.


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General Paper Essay Outline : To what extent does international cooperation reduce poverty ?

(1) International cooperation is more successful when the parties that help do not exploit the poorer countries that they cooperate with.
– transnational corporations may expect low labour costs when they make investments in developing countries.
– or they may expect to buy raw materials at a low price in exchange for providing expertise and job opportunities


(2) International cooperation is more successful when the beneficiary governments are competent and not corrupt or lawless. This ensure the effective disbursement and use of resources provided from the international groups, companies or countries that collaborate with them.


(3) International cooperation can succeed if the kind of cooperation is suitable.
– peace keeping by international corps in vulnerable states

(4) In multilateral arrangements (that have more parties than bilateral arrangements), the opportunity for success is immense because more resources can be pooled. However, the possibility that any one of the parties does not fulfill its part of the agreement, makes multilateral cooperation riskier, meaning other parties suffer greatly in the event of failure.

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General Paper Essay Outline “The Arts are more important for Singapore today than the Sciences.”

Disclaimer : This outline is open to discussion. It is not meant to be taken as the only, or best, answer to the question

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Learning Points :

- Show the CONDITIONS FACED BY SINGAPORE that make either one more important than the other; or both equally important.

 – Show how each actually works/operates to fulfil its important role

[FULL INTRO] As Singapore approaches its 50th year of independence, many questions loom about how the country should move forward. One of those questions centres around the role of the Arts : Are the Arts better for Singapore today as compared to the Sciences? Singapore should take a leaf out of the book of the idealised Renaissance Man. For a people to move forward, they should value both the Arts and the Sciences as separate, yet intertwining, disciplines. In Singapore, while the emphasis on the Sciences continues to be important, the Arts – long under-rated and downplayed – are more important for its people and the country as whole.



[BP1] Singapore already has the clockwork efficiency and infrastructure that are the outcomes of the focus on science and engineering, but without the Arts, the city-state would be bereft of life and soul. The Arts is better than the Sciences for Singapore’s economy because it helps Singapore to stand out as a dynamic cosmopolitan city that is comparable with other world-renowned economic centres like Hong Kong, Tokyo, London and New York. Global cities that emphasize the Arts are able to attract not just tourists but also investors and very mobile talent because the love for the Arts is synonymous with diversity, creativity and tolerance for differing opinions. For this reason, Singapore organises its film festival and arts festival that have grown to become showcases for world-class acts and works. Indeed, the Arts help create the energy that makes the city exciting, fun and liveable.

[BP 2] Yet, the focus on the Sciences cannot come to a standstill because the country has to continuously apply the Sciences in order to find workable solutions to cope with more people and more trade. Hence, with all the above in mind, the government has embarked on a masterplan that marries both the Arts and the Sciences. This includes the development of the new financial-cum-night life district in Marina Bay that incorporates manifestations of science like an underwater expressway and an artificial reservoir to support water supply as well as centres for the Arts like the Arts Science Museum and the Esplanade Theatre. In doing so, the government continues to use the Sciences, but shows greater awareness of the role of the Arts in re-inventing Singapore’s image.

(The above is an example of a complete comparison as required in the question presented across 2 BP).
The BPs below show that the comparison is done within each BP.)


 [BP 3] The world today is full of opportunities. Sg has to provide opportunities for its pple to grow, fulfil their dreams, regardless of field – otherwise the pple could feel disillusioned, and may consider quitting the country altogether.

  • Sg should be Southeast Asia’s Silicon Valley. How? Science education has to grow to suit the technological trends of today and the projections for the future. Effective and current science education can help stem brain drain.
  • Interestingly, the Arts cannot be divorced from this very push for the Sciences, because both functional and aesthetic design have become increasingly important.
  • E.g. the Sciences – for building programme software but the Arts – for creating appealing hardware that is actually marketable.

[BP4] Furthermore, Sg needs to reflect on why so many pple in the Arts left to train and work abroad in the past. They did not see a future for their artistic talents and passion here. But their inclination for the Arts actually makes them valuable in the ever-changing modern world.

  • The Arts have made them more willing to look outside the box, whereas science training is grounded in (natural) laws that once discovered, are generally fixed.
  • Sg today needs more of such people because the textbook answers to evolving real-world problems that science-trained policy makers try to look for are non-existent.
  • The Sciences – develops systematic research methodology – one-track way of doing things or methodically changing only one variable at a time
  • Artistic Expression – far more fluid – greater tolerance for a mad mix of factors that shape society.
  • The logical, systematic solution (promoted by the Sciences) for solving the productivity problem is either to make people work more or use technology to increase output. However, the human aspect is not considered in these options. Thus outcomes like stress, fatigue or emotional disconnection are not carefully pre-empted. Healthy, loving relationships become collateral in a science-driven society because relationships are far more complex and are the result of the interplay of so many factors that cannot be quantified or measured by the scientific mind. The Arts explores these human issues. Continued exposure to the Arts can actually cushion the impact of over-emphasizing measureable results such as grades or output.


[BP 5] In addition, the less rigid nature of the Arts means that there is a higher tolerance for variegated human behaviours. Scientific research tends to ignore anomalies until these are proven to be significant for consideration. In this way, the Arts encourage empathy more than the Sciences.

  • The Arts – reading for allegorical, indirect meaning, look beyond the surface – even in society, symptoms of problems can be taken more seriously before the problems become apparent
  • E.g.  In absolute scientific terms, the number of problem gamblers in Sg is small and containable even after the opening of two casinos in 2010. Yet the Arts proffer a contrary view. The Arts encourage the mind to explore possibilities, see the world through a more empathetic lens and stress-test the moral values that a person holds dear; thus, the mind sees a more devastating fallout that absolute numbers do not uncover.
  • The new world we live in will throw up even more debatable developments, thus the Arts grows in importance.
  • Furthermore empathy and values imbued through the Arts inspires people to serve those in the fringes, who, by scientific calculation, are unimportant to society. Sg needs more of this as the rich-poor divide unabatedly widens


 [RESOLUTION / FULL CONCLUSION] Both the Arts and the Sciences have strengths. Both are indispensible for Sg to advance.  However, given that Sg already has begun its journey as a nation with a strong foundation in the Sciences, it has to look to the Arts to fill in some developmental gaps because its growth has not been holistic. The problems caused by this lop-sided growth are becoming more palpable. Therefore, while the Sciences are still important, the Arts are better for Sg today.


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